How to Make Safe and Secure Transactions at an ATM

December 27, 2023 by First Federal Bank

atmFor many people, an automated teller machine is still their preferred method of depositing checks and cash as well as withdrawing money. If you plan to use an ATM — whether near your home or in another town you’re visiting — make sure to follow this advice so you lessen the chance of becoming an ATM crime victim:
Choose the best location
Where an ATM is located makes a big difference in its security and your safety as a patron. Only use ATMs that are in locations  in a protected environment or less likely to be targeted. For instance, Investopedia writer Rebecca Lake suggests, “Using an ATM that’s in a well-lit area that many people pass through may be more secure than using an ATM that’s tucked in an out-of-the-way, poorly lit spot.”
An ATM in an enclosed location with limited access for non-customers is ideal, such as a lobby or monitored kiosk. Avoid freestanding ATMs at malls and grocery stores, which have a higher risk of being tampered with, according to Lake.
If you cannot visit the ATM during the day, choose a location where there’s plenty of light and surveillance. The more visible the ATM is, the greater potential for witnesses that would deter robbers. If you’re worried about using the ATM alone, ask a companion to accompany you.
Inspect the ATM before using it
Take a moment to assess the machine before starting your transaction. Sometimes, signs of tampering can be evident if you look closely enough. “If the keypad seems loose or wobbly, a key sticks, or the on-screen instructions aren’t what you’re used to seeing at an ATM, it could be a red flag that it’s been tampered with by a scammer,” advises Lake.
If anything looks suspicious, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Find another ATM nearby that’s more trustworthy

Prepare beforehand
A safe ATM transaction begins before you even approach the kiosk. In order to get in and out as quickly as possible, prepare everything you can beforehand to avoid lingering at the ATM longer than necessary. The longer you fiddle around at the ATM counting your cash or deciding what to do, the longer you’ll be a target.
Plan out your entire transaction thoroughly, including knowing how much money you’re depositing or withdrawing, having any checks endorsed beforehand, having your ATM/debit card within reach, and memorizing your PIN. Uncurl and flatten the bills and checks now so they won’t be rejected by the ATM. If the ATM will require a deposit envelope, keep a stack of them at home or in your car that you can pull from beforehand.

Stay aware
Even if you’ve selected a safe location, remain cognizant of your environs throughout the whole transaction. As the Los Angeles Police Department advises, “Maintain an awareness of your surroundings throughout the entire transaction. Do not become so involved with your transaction that you are not aware of changing conditions in the area.”
Other suggestions the LAPD make are to look confident and fully alert at all times to dissuade criminals from seeing you as unobservant and vulnerable. Be aware of anyone sitting in a parked car or standing nearby. Don’t let anyone stand too close to you, and never offer assistance to or accept assistance from strangers. Shield the ATM keypad when you enter your pin, and make sure you get a receipt for the transaction.
If anything concerns you during your transaction, cancel it and leave the area immediately. It’s not worth risking your safety to use the ATM; you can always wait to visit a branch in person or use a mobile app for your banking needs.

Categories: Personal Banking, Financial Education

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